“But He said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’ ” John 6:20
The third reason why God allows us to struggle is to ENCOURAGE US TO RELY ON CHRIST’S POWER (John 6:19-21). “So when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near the boat; and they were afraid.” (John 6:19). The disciples battled this raging storm through the long hours of the night. Mark says they were “straining at rowing” (Mark 6:48). By 3 a.m. they had rowed only 3-4 miles with about 2 miles to go. Even though these men were exhausted, they faithfully kept trying to row across the Sea. And when they looked over their shoulders, they were “afraid” or literally they were “terrified” to see a ghostlike form walking on the water toward them. These men were expecting to die, and they thought the angel of death was coming to take them. But this was no ghost. This was Jesus walking across those waves. And He was using those immense waves as pavement for His feet. The sea that had impeded the disciples’ movement, was no obstacle for Christ, and all that they feared brought no fear to Jesus.
Above the raging storm the disciples heard a familiar voice bring a word of comfort. “But He said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’ ” (John 6:20).When Jesus says, “It is I,”He identifies Himself as “I AM”(cf. Exodus 3:13-14) in the Greet text (egō eimi). The verb (phobeisthe) translated “do not be afraid” is a present imperative and means “Stop being afraid.”What Jesus is saying is, “That which scares the living daylights out of you, this strange form walking across the stormy sea, doing what is absolutely impossible for men to do, that is Me – the Eternal God! And the very waves that are over your heads I already have under My feet. I am in control of these events, therefore there is no need for you to fear. Simply trust Me to take you where you could never take yourself.”
Jesus silences our fears with His Word. And there is tremendous power in the Word of God. “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.” (Psalm 33:6, 9). The same voice that spoke this universe into existence out of nothing, can also calm our fears in the midst of the storms of life. This same voice can give us the power to overcome problems that we could never overcome in our own strength.
Life is filled with fierce storms. Where do you turn when you just discover your son is a practicing homosexual… your mate is talking separation or divorce… you’ve lost your job and it’s your own fault… your parent is an alcoholic… your spouse is having an affair… you flunk your entrance exam or you messed up the interview… your faith is persecuted? Where are you going to turn when the storms of life batter your soul? The disciples turned to Jesus.
“Then they willingly received Him into the boat.” (John 6:21a). Recognizing His voice, the disciples want to receive Christ aboard their boat. The New King James inaccurately translates the Greek phrase as, “They were willing to receive Him into the boat”(ēthelon oun labein auton eis to ploion).A better translation would be, “They wanted to receive Him into the boat.”
The moment the disciples recognize Jesus, based on His word, they want to receive Him into their boat. Then a second miracle took place. “… And immediately the boat was at the land where they were going.” (John 6:21b). The moment the disciples wanted Jesus in their boat, “immediately” the boat was at the land to which they were going. Nothing is said about Jesus stepping onto the boat. Matthew says the wind stopped (Matthew 14:32). There was peace on that lake and in the disciples’ hearts. The boat traveled the two remaining miles in an instant as Christ brought them safely to their destination.
There is a message here for non-Christians. Like the disciples, many people work hard to get to their final destination. They think that getting to heaven is based upon their own efforts and works. Like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, they are not willing to come to Jesus to have life (cf. John 5:39-40). If they were willing to believe, they would recognize who Jesus was (the Christ or Messiah-God, John 20:31) and then, immediately, they would have been safe in His family forever (John 1:12; 6:37; 11:25-26)! Their destiny would have been assured by none other than Jesus Himself. In the discourse to follow (John 6:22-58), Jesus will not only stress His eternal sufficiency as the Bread of Life, but He will also emphasize the believer’s absolute certainty of reaching a safe eternal destination. Jesus will “raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40).
There is also a message here for Christians. Some of us may face some very frightening circumstances in our lives in the months ahead. Disease, disappointment, death, an accident, desertion or divorce, loss of religious freedom, or even persecution may take their terrible toll on our lives. We may all find ourselves in a sea of trouble like these disciples. But what Jesus is saying to the disciples (and to us) is, “That which frightens you, that very thing which scares you, is Me. I am coming to you in and through that circumstance, so you don’t need to be afraid. I am in charge of it. I have chosen it for you, therefore you do not need to be afraid. Simply trust Me to do through you what you could never do on your own; and if you do that, you will experience My peace.”
Whatever storm you are facing, are you willing to permit Jesus to come to you in that storm? Are you willing to ask Him, “Lord Jesus, what do You want to say to me in this storm?” His answer may surprise you and it can calm the raging storm inside of you.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You promise that I will face storms or tribulation in this world (John 16:33). I may face tremendous toil and trouble, heartbreak and heartache, and yet in the midst of it, Lord, You have promised to be there, and You can come through the darkest night and over the most troubled waters into the boat of my life. May the eyes of my faith be fixed upon You, Lord. Instead of trying harder, may I start trusting in You because You are in charge of the storm. Help me to be still so I can hear Your voice say to me, “It is I; Do not be afraid.” You are in control of my past, present, and future. Thank You for calming my fears and replacing my storm-tossed feelings with Your powerful presence. Your voice is enough to calm my storms. You, my Lord and my God, are more than enough. In Jesus’ name. Amen.